No offer for homes by MTSU

Roger Garfield, The Daily News Journal, July 15, 2006

Residents of Murfreesboro’s historic district continue to fight MTSU’s plans to expand into the district.

The residents have formed a steering committee and have tried to meet once every two weeks since their March 21 meeting with MTSU, where the university’s 20-year plan was discussed.

At that time, part of the university’s plan included the historic district from Middle Tennessee Boulevard to Cherry Lane bordered by Lytle and East Main streets.

In April, MTSU released an altered 20-year plan, no longer including most of the historic district.  Three houses from that neighborhood remain on the university’s plan, however, and committee members want to see them preserved.

Thursday, 10 members of the steering committee met with Patrick McIntyre, executive director of the Tennessee Preservation Trust — an organization that helps monitor and promote preservation-friendly legislation.

At the meeting, committee members showed concern for the preservation of the remaining three houses, even though the residents of those houses were not in attendance.

Lorne McWatters, a professor of history at MTSU who has been involved in the steering committee since March, says to build in the historic district would hurt the city greatly.

“People don’t come to Murfreesboro to drive up and down Broad Street,” McWatters said.  “We bring them up and down Main Street and downtown.  That’s what makes Murfreesboro unique.” 

McWatters said MTSU’s desire to acquire these historic houses shocks him because of one of the school’s most prestigious programs.  The Center for Historic Preservation at MTSU is a nationally recognized program and designated a Center of Excellence by the State of Tennessee.  McWatters added that the school’s public history program, in which he teaches, is one of the largest in the country.

“I was surprised that the university wasn’t sensitive or aware that the area they are annexing is a local historic zone and a national registered district,” he said.  “That’s why I take a strong position.”

John Cothern, senior vice president for business and finance at MTSU, says the only reason the university has the three houses on the plan is because they face Middle Tennessee Boulevard. 

“We have not asked them to sell to us, and we have no immediate intention to do so,” Cothern said.

Still, the concerned residents want this issue addressed. On July 21, the committee will meet with other local preservationists to help increase the numbers of those fighting for their cause.

“It’s about different preservation organizations coming together to work as a coalition rather than separately,” said Melinda Haines, who helps head the committee.

McIntyre and Nancy Tinker, from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, are expected to attend the meeting and lend local residents a hand in planning.

The meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. on July 21 at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, located at 1267 N. Rutherford Blvd.

— Roger Garfield, 278-5102

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